You are on page 1of 5


Week 4
25 April 2007

 theorizing about emotions – 1980s – Hochschild
 what are the social functions of emotions?
 how is the very experience of emotions a domain of social action / social shaping?
 how is something we feel a product of social processes / social forces?
 moving away from thinking about emotions as organismic/biological phenomenon

how do the authors conceptualize what an emotion or a feeling is?

 Cindy: emotion work
 what definition of emotion is implied by emotions as work?
 there have been various approaches sociologically and anthropologically to emotion (the
following are ideal types; they are attempts to characterize
 organismic approach – characteristic of early Freud
 emotion unconsciously welling up / surging within us
 emotions as not subject to social inscription or social patterning
 social constructionist approach
 the emotions we actually have and experience are subject to social norms
 we become socialized into certain patterns
 top-down notion.. emotions are socially structured and socially shaped; we’re
disciplined to feel certain things in certain situations
 in between these two, we have an interactionist approach that is characteristic of what we
read today
 emotions are, to some extent, unbidden, uncontrolled, but attempts to control them
have this organismic precognitive component to them
 interactionists struggling to figure out how cognitive and embodied physical
experience of emotion work together
 ongoing struggle to figure out where we see these things happening
 some would say what is emotion is already a social product. interactionists trying to come to
grips w/ notion that our very experience is already a social product. what we experience is a
product of a conversation w/ ourselves; emotions are no different. social, embodied
 Elena: if this is the case, then sociologists would argue there’s no such thing as instincts (e.g.,
maternal instincts)
 Amy: what about babies who cry b/c their toy won’t work?
 this is a critique taken up w/ people who take an extremely/overtly interactionist position
 in terms of its history within social theory, social constructionism has waxed and waned.
experience is not just a psychological exercise, it’s a social exercise as well.
 part of Hochschild’s project was to talk about emotion work, but her focus was to talk about
how what in fact we actually feel is what we work ourselves to feel (not just what we express
verbally or in body language)
what is the social function of emotion?
 a prevailing question within this domain of sociology
 what kind of social function does this notion of maternal instinct serve?
 what kind of power relations are they reinforcing, substantiating, expressing?
 Linda: oxytocin the “love hormone”; role of steroids in rage; serotonin in depression; our
ability to pharmacologically affect emotions
 Matt: is it the emotion that creates the physiological change, or vice versa?
 it’s not just about optimizing everyone to a norm; it’s about what social function that serves
 tendency to fall into a culturalist kind of argument. there are also people who would argue
structuralist constraints have huge impact on what kinds of emotions one can/should feel
 Death Without Weeping – shantytown on outskirts of Brazilian city. Scheper-Hughes
questions ‘universal’ notion of mother love. in slums, doesn’t make sense for mothers to
become attached to their infants
 Romi: studies re: emotions in animals
 language a prerequisite to our thinking about ourselves?
 -----
 there’s always tendency to try to psychologize/stigmatize the person who’s somehow
different. this class is trying to reverse the focus: why is it that attitudes / culturally
narratives are so socially accepted?

sociology of emotion helped us grasp what social functions of emotions are. conceptual
link between experiences of illness/ourselves/others and social relationships

Hochschild’s definition of feeling rules

 important role that emotions have in assigning meanings to situations
 in many contexts, the meaning of a situation derives from its emotional content
 explicit way to link emotions to the interactionist emphasis on our interpretations of
situations having consequences for our actions
 sequence between us encountering a situation, us giving meaning to that situation (in part
through feeling rules), and that in turn motivating us to act in that situation in particular ways
 what we actually feel – not just what we display to other people, not just what we express – is
something we work on, that we strive to shape in different kinds of ways.
 emotions are deliberately worked on (but may not be consciously worked on)
 others (such as Goffman) talk about the presentation of self in everyday life – everything is a
stage, everything is a drama. part of role-playing involves expression of feelings to make
certain things happen.
 Hochschild says it’s not just what we display and how we express, it’s how we feel, on a
fundamental embodied level.. in conversation w/ ourselves and w/ others, in a way that is
shaped by these feeling rules
 Hochschild talks about three different strategies in emotion work – bodily, cognitive,
 deep acting
 distinct from surface acting
 one may feel insecure, but acts as if s/he is not
 Hochschild argues you work on the feeling of insecurity itself, and you can change the
feeling itself
 integration/incorporation of feeling rules into the way you actually feel
 ‘I feel insecure; I’m not supposed to feel insecure; I’m supposed to feel confident’ – you
make yourself feel confident, and you also do surface acting, where you make yourself
seem confident
 frontstage/backstage a more Goffmanian conception; Hochschild is saying what you
think is backstage is actually frontstage
 commodification of emotion work; emotional labor sold for a price. that’s the point where it
becomes commodified
 what are some examples of emotion work?
 John: caregiving for Alzheimer’s. if they get angry, you’re not supposed to get angry
back, b/c they’re not responsible for it; so you cultivate a nice disposition, even though
you want to respond with anger
 Krista: Mamo article – pretending not to know the emotions of the mother
 Erica: chronic fatigue syndrome
 long conversation starting w/ Glaser/Strauss and taken up by Timmermans .. Mamo tries to
further elaborate by saying yes, all that is going on, and yes, awareness is not solely on
having information – that information needs to be meaningful – but at the same time, all of
this stuff is still coming out as unbidden, unconscious surges that, no matter what, one isn’t
really able to control
 pervasive ideology we have about willpower; if you believe something, you can will it to
happen (characteristic of Becker/Kaufman article)
 Elena: Becker/Kaufman painful to read
 John: burden of emotion work

awareness context
 what’s the value added in conceptualizing these different levels of awareness? what’s the
purpose, what’s the point of specifically identifying these levels?
 rules of how social situations evolved.. elaborately choreographed interactions re: dying
patient, based on how much patient knew
 one of the hallmark’s of Strauss’ contribution – many different forms of work (e.g.,
sentimental work)
 joint fitting-together of how this family is going to figure out what the patient should know,
when the patient should know, and what should happen should the patient find out
 this is why awareness context has conceptual salience
 Cindy: this is clearly professional dominance
 within medical sociology, people finally started to give credence to and problematize the
patient’s experience
 Martine: sociology in medicine (sociology in the service of medicine) vs. sociology of
medicine (problematizes the system of medicine)
 Glaser and Strauss do talk about the four stages, but they stipulate that one should not make
the mistake of thinking they constitute a linear, unidirectional process
 what does each article (Timmermans, Mamo) add to awareness context?
 Timmermans
 Beth: framework essentially analytic
 doesn’t that presume that emotion and analysis are inherently at odds with one
 Beth: to an extent, in this article, yes and no. he couldn’t have gone to further
analysis w/o emotional experience, but he doesn’t problematize the emotional exp.
 Martine: no structure or vocabulary available in sociology to talk about emotions
 one of last week’s discussion questions re: difficulty of putting into language some of
the things we’re talking about
 some of the stuff is alinguistic/prelinguistic
 a lot of our analytic/scientific vocabulary is an artifact of these Cartesian dualisms
that embodied sociology is trying to overcome
 it really is a communicative struggle and analytic struggle to get a handle on what is
going on here
 this welter of bodily experience and emotional experience.. always involves some
level of abstraction and generalization
 in some ways, we don’t have a vocabulary or language to put it into a space where we
can discuss it intersubjectively
 one of the common critiques of Timmermans is that he purports to center emotions in
his theoretical elaborations of Glaser and Strauss, but it has this flavor of being
aemotional, being very analytical.
• where Janet found his emotions was that in part, it’s the patients and family
members’ emotional responses to information, to prognostic information, that in
fact problematizes the notion that open awareness means the same thing to
everybody. when people hang on to hope and dismiss the negative side of
ambiguity, interpreting it as doors that may still be open.. that’s an emotional
response arising out of the need to hang on to hope. that, in part, led him to
contend that open awareness is not one and the same thing
• the other part where his emotions become important is in his taking very seriously
that the meanings we take from certain situations impacts our interpretations of
those situations. he had an emotional reaction to the information re: his mother.
sometimes more information leads to more questions. information alone has no
social significance or personal significance
 Mamo
 acceptance, active participation
 we must be careful not to psychologize as we read about what we identify as
‘dysfunctional’ situations
 one sees one’s own identify in terms of one’s relationships w/ others

 feeling rules really dictate how one is supposed to feel and how one is supposed to act in
different situations
 the underside of ideology (p. 566 – “Rules for managing feeling are implicit in any
ideological stance; they are the ‘bottom side’ of ideology.”)
 Martine: the ways ideology comes to being in everyday situations; feeling rules are the
facilitators of that
 people are actually engaging in deep acting to feel what the ideology is saying what
they’re supposed to feel (“this war is just”; “we are liberating Iraq”)
 she’s talking about the differentiation between doing and feeling. there are these sort of
dominant narratives, dominant scripts, cultural ideologies that dictate how we’re
supposed to look at a situation, what meanings we’re supposed to derive, and how we’re
supposed to act in a situation
 it’s not that we attempt to behave and act in these socially prescribed ways, but in fact the
feeling rules, deep acting is done to align with / meet the ideal/ideology
 Kim: how do we develop an ideology?
 what is ideology, and where does it come from?
 fundamentally in sociology, there are different strategies to make a group act a certain
way. you can make them do something by coercion. or you can use ideology = the
noncoercive aspects; getting people to do what you want them to do; manufacturing
 Hochschild talks about feeling rules as the underside of ideology: we are reinforcing
the ways in which we accede and consent to domination, to social relationships being
structured in the ways that they are.
 why ideologies make sense is b/c they’ve been made to have sense. the normative
ways we look at each other are constructed in particular ways to serve particular kinds
of interests.
 Becker/Kaufman: to extent that patients work hard at their own recovery
(responsibility for actualizing / rehabilitation).. it actualizes, enacts certain ideological
structure that emphasizes autonomy/responsibility